Emmanuel Jal

Hip-hop artist
Emmanuel Jal's hypnotic voice rises from hellish origins as a beacon of hope for those caught in seemingly endless cycles of war and despair.

Why you should listen

Hip-hop star Emmanuel Jal first exploded into dance halls with Gua in 2005. His music has energized music lovers of all ethnicities and nations. But Jal's life story is far darker. Swept up into the Sudanese rebel army at age seven, he finally escaped with 400 fellow soldiers, 16 of whom survived, the rest succumbing to starvation, ambush and animal attacks. Rather than resort to cannibalism, Jal ate snails and vultures until he arrived at a refugee camp, where he was adopted by aid worker Emma McCune and later sent to England.

Jal found an outlet for his turbulent life story in music. His lyrics tell moving and disturbing stories, but wrap them into hope and love. He is active in charity work across Africa, fighting against poverty and child warfare. War Child, his biography, was released in early 2009 along with a documentary film.

What others say

“Jal's narrative flows between darkness and light, the terror that befell his family and kinsmen, the horrors he went on to inflict upon others, and a deep-seated desire to set things right.” — Washington Post

Emmanuel Jal’s TED talks

Emmanuel Jal on the TED Blog
See all

The week in comments

August 8, 2009

The reception for this past wave of talks from TED Global 2009 centers around the theme of accountability. People seemed especially moved by Emmanuel Jal’s music on his life as a war child and Michael Pritchard’s revolutionary water filter. We even got a TEDGlobal speaker sparking a discussion on one of these highlighted talks (in […]

Continue reading

The music of a war child: Emmanuel Jal on TED.com

August 7, 2009

For five years, young Emmanuel Jal fought as a child soldier in the Sudan. Rescued by an aid worker, he’s become an international hip-hop star and an activist for kids in war zones. In words and lyrics, he tells the story of his amazing life. (Recorded at TEDGlobal 2009, July 2009 in Oxford, UK. Duration: […]

Continue reading

Emmanuel Jal at TEDGlobal 2009: Running notes from Session 8

July 23, 2009

Emmanuel Jal at TEDGlobal 2009, Session 8: July 23, 2009, in Oxford, UK. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson Emmanuel Jal, a tall, dreadlocked young man takes the stage and introduces himself as a rapper. It’s unusual to have a rapper at TED, but as Jal tells his story it’s obvious that he’s not your […]

Continue reading

Quotes from Emmanuel Jal

[During the second Sudanese Civil War] what was actually killing us wasn’t the Muslims, wasn’t the Arabs. It was somebody sitting somewhere manipulating the system, and using religion to get what they want to get out of us, which is the oil, the diamond, the gold and the land.
Emmanuel Jal
TEDGlobal 2009 • 573K views Aug 2009
Inspiring, Courageous